India qualified for the semi-finals of the SAFF U19 Championship with a 2-1 win over Bhutan at the Dasarath Stadium in Kathmandu on Monday. At halftime both teams were tied at 1-1. Jigme Namgyel put Bhutan ahead in the 20th minute, but India recovered with goals from Gwgwmsar Goyary and Ricky Meetei. India went into the Group B match with the upper hand after beating Bangladesh 3-0. Furthermore, Bhutan’s 4–3 win against Bangladesh meant that India only needed a draw to secure top spot in the group and then a place in the semi-finals.
In the semi-finals, India will cross swords with host country Nepal on Wednesday.
A tense battle ensued in the middle of the park, with the two sides trying to gain control of the game.
India looked to be overloading the wings as Raja Harijan sent searching air balls to the flanks.
However, it was against the run of play that Bhutan took the lead through Namgyel, whose cross from the right flank fooled everyone and curled into the top corner.
India, in turn, managed to cause some confusion in Bhutan’s penalty area by sending aerial balls aimed at their rotating target.
Kelvin Singh Taorem went ahead early, but only collided with Bhutanese keeper Penjor Gyeltshen when the ball rolled wide.
Taorem had another chance in the 36th minute when a cross from the left by Naoba Meitei was tapped in by the former, but it was saved from close range by Gyeltshen.
The Blue Colts finally had an equalizer almost immediately, as a similar aerial ball was fed into the penalty area, where it bounced over the keeper, before Goyary muscled his way in and nodded it into an empty net.
India started the second half on the front foot and took the lead in the 64th minute with a corner that had clearly been worked on in training.
Yash Chikro, instead of kicking the corner into the box, sent a grounder to the top of the box, where an unmarked Meetei took advantage of the opportunity and side-footed the ball into the bottom corner with an accurate shot.
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